The smart home market is the next great technology platform, and some of the world’s largest companies are battling for dominance in your living room. Google, Apple, and Amazon all offer their own digital assistant for controlling your smart home, and choosing the right one is an important first step in your journey toward home automation.
Why You Need a Digital Assistant
A digital assistant (commonly referred to as an AI) is generally housed in a smart hub and is the “brain” of a smart home system. Smart home assistants offer hundreds of standalone voice-activated skills that make everyday tasks a little simpler, from looking up a recipe to playing your favorite music.
Once you connect your digital assistant to a few home automation devices, its true utility begins to show; a digital assistant allows you to use simple voice commands to control hundreds of different Wi-Fi connected appliances, lighting fixtures, thermostats, power outlets, and more. You’ll need a strong internet connection to integrate these Wi-Fi connected devices throughout your home, but the convenience and efficiency of home automation can make the initial setup more than worth it.
Choosing a Digital Assistant
You can find several smart home hubs on the market, but those from Google, Apple, and Amazon are the most popular by far. And you’ll need to look carefully at each product or appliance to determine if it’s compatible with your hub and digital assistant—not every home automation device is compatible with all three digital assistants.
Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, comes preloaded on all Amazon Echo devices and a host of other smart home tools, like certain smart thermostats. Alexa was the starting point for the smart home market, and Amazon’s early lead has held for the last few years. Integrating with thousands of third-party devices and applications, Alexa boasts a repertoire of skills that just passed 30,000.
Alexa is a strong choice for users who already own a few smart home appliances or fixtures since this AI holds the broadest compatibility out of the three major digital assistants. Alexa’s biggest drawback has been a lack of integration with smartphones—only a few phones are currently compatible with Amazon’s AI.
Google’s smart home devices are newer to the market than Amazon Echo devices, but Google is making up for lost time with innovation, design, and, above all, a powerful digital assistant. Google Assistant is the undisputed champion of voice recognition technology and offers more-advanced conversation features than either of its competitors.
Google’s AI can understand complex phrases and can even handle multiple requests at once. Access to Google’s search engine technology also provides more helpful results; in a head-to-head test, Google Home attempted to answer almost 80% of the questions it was thrown, compared to just under 60% for Amazon’s Alexa. Google’s helpful AI is about equal to Amazon Alexa in the performance of actual tasks and offers a short but robust list of compatible smart home products.
Siri began its life in one of Apple’s flagship products, the iPhone. As Apple begins dipping its toes in the smart home market with Apple HomeKit, Siri formally joins Alexa and Google Assistant outside of mobile technology. Siri has very strong ties to Apple hardware, making it the ideal assistant if you’re already a fan of Apple products.
Siri’s voice recognition and product selection aren’t the best on the market, but the integration with Apple products can be a big plus. Your iPad or Apple TV can serve as a smart home hub with HomeKit, allowing you to use Siri’s voice recognition to control your smart home functions without a smart speaker.
If you already own several devices, Alexa’s broad compatibility may be a big draw. Siri can save you a lot of money if you already own an Apple product like an iPhone. And finally, Google’s AI is the best choice if you’re looking for an unparalleled AI experience since it boasts the strongest voice recognition software.